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GLBT People and Buddhism: Compatible?

A reader writes:

I’m just starting a new interest in Buddhism but I’m gay and I read that the Dali Lama thinks homosexuality is wrong for Buddhists. How should I handle that?

My Response:

I did a post on this back in 2008, and most of it is still true.  As far as I know, the Dalai Lama has not changed his tune on gay folks. That being said, since I wrote that in 2008, LGBT people have made great progress both politically and socially. The most obvious sign of this is the growing acceptance of same-sex marriages, with more states allowing it all the time.

Keep in mind that Buddhism is heavily dependent on local customs. I hesitate to put this too simply, but right and wrong are often relative to the culture in question. What’s morally acceptable in one place may not be acceptable elsewhere.

The Dalai Lama is from Tibet. He used to be the “King” of Tibet. If anyone gets to say what is or isn’t proper in Tibet, it’s him. American culture, on the other hand, is not Tibetan culture. I believe that the Dalai Lama wants to reduce the level of suffering of his people, and he believes that being gay causes suffering. In Tibet, that may well be very true. In America, 20 years ago, that was often true as well. Today? Not as much.

Going all the way back to the foundations of Buddhism, the Four Noble Truths, the goal of all of Buddhism is to end or reduce suffering. If Homosexuality is considered evil and wrong by most of society, then an LGBT individual is going to have greater suffering than in a more accepting environment. This is certainly not good for the individual or society as a whole.

Is homoexuality a suffering-free lifestyle? No. straight people can’t claim that either. It is, however, becoming more and more accepted, and therefore more and more compatible with Buddhist beliefs.

I suspect we’ll have some discussion in the comment section; that’s what it’s for!

3 comments to GLBT People and Buddhism: Compatible?

  • Oscar

    I had no opinion either way what kind of person the Dalai Lama was until I saw a video by the Venerable Ajahn Brahm speaking for the Gay community and criticising the Dalai Lama for saying that if your gay, there’s no place for youias a Bhuddist. I was stunned. After reading a ton of material on the Dalai Lama regarding his stance on gay rights and same sex marriage, I’ve come to the conclusion that the 14th Dalai Lama is a hypocrite. To me the Dalai Lama and the Pope are both just political figureheads. If you’re gay, and want to be a Bhuddist, listen to Ajahn Brahm on YouTube and decide for yourself who to follow. Remember, the Dalai Lama doesn’t hold the reigns in Bhuddism.

  • Jeff

    Here’s the link to a research article I published on the topic, I think you’ll find it quite interesting:

    http://www.globalbuddhism.org/13/wilson12.pdf

  • Sonam

    I think there is fundamental misunderstanding in the presentation of Dalai Lama’s views on homosexuality due to the his poor english. As in his tibetan teachings of the ten precepts he says according to scripture non procreational heterosexual sex, masturbation and homosexuality. He points out all these activities mostly considered recreational and it violates the precept of refraining for sexual activity. As he does not engage in these activities he says it is not up to him to say whether it is right or wrong but up to the individuals involved. He asked the audience to consider why recreational sex is frowned upon in buddhist view, 1) because it is believed to not serve a specific function, 2) it can alter a persons capability to think clearly, like intoxicants 3) and it can become an attachment to samsara.
    My uncle who is in a monk in the Geluk sect like the dalai lama says says something similar but opposite as he pointed out that scriptures were written as guides to enlightenment and anything that didn’t fulfill that specific purpose was considered a distraction. He said it all depends on what a person is looking for.
    My personal beliefs is homosexuality is a part of this world as much as heterosexuality and can be considered even older if asexual reproduction of one celled organisms are considered beginning of life (please don’t think i am comparing homosexuality is just like single celled organisms). Just pointing out the argument against procreational sex where one holds the need for male and female might be flawed. As for recreational sex I do believe it can be an expression of ones love but at the same time it can skew a persons perception. I believe every individual is responsible for his own line.

    http://www.sfgate.com/news/article/Dalai-Lama-Speaks-on-Gay-Sex-He-says-it-s-wrong-2836591.php
    Here is an example of an article where Dalai lama is trying to point out that scripture and social practice is different which one is morally correct that is for the sangha to decide.